Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning

Brain Fact Friday on ”The Neuroscience of Communication: Why Our Brain Doesn‘t Like the Word, NO!”

November 4, 2021

Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast for Brain Fact Friday and EPISODE #176 on “The Neuroscience of Communication: Why Our Brain Doesn’t Like the Word No!”

I'm Andrea Samadi, author, and educator from Toronto, Canada, now in Arizona, and like many of you listening, have been fascinated with learning and understanding the science behind high performance strategies that we can use to improve our own productivity in our schools, our sports, and workplace environments. We can achieve outstanding and predictable outcomes with whatever it is we are working towards, when we act intentionally, with our brain in mind.

This week’s Brain Fact Friday hit me this weekend when I was handed a book and asked what I thought of it. It was Jack Carew’s You’ll Never Get No for an Answer[i] with a copyright date of 1987! I looked at the cover of the book, and it was clearly written in the 1980s. The author was on the cover, dressed in a suit and pointing at you, the reader with the intention of making a connection. My gut reaction was far from what the author intended. I thought, “oh no, I can’t see how there’s anything relevant in this book, for today’s workplace” feeling that sense of neural dissonance or conflict at the brain level, but if this book wasn’t exceptional, I don’t think large sales organizations would still be using it, around the world, over 3 decades after it was written.

I usually read books through Kindle on my iPhone, so when I have a physical copy, I love to flip through and see what I notice from the pages. We all have our styles of what we are looking for, and I noticed the interior looked “old” and I thought old-school, when I saw that the print wasn’t crisp or modern looking. And there weren’t many testimonials, just a couple, but the one on the front cover stood out. It was by Og Mandino, American author of the best-selling book, The Greatest Salesman in the World.[ii] Og is the most widely read inspirational and self-help author in the world. He was the former president of Success Unlimited magazine, the first recipient of the Napoleon Hill Gold Medal for literary achievement, a member of the International Speakers Hall of Fame and honored with the Masters of Influence by the National Speakers Association. Og Mandino sadly passed away in 1996 but his books continue to inspire thousands of people all over the world.

So if a pro like Og Mandino said this book was “one of the most powerful and helpful books on salesmanship” that he had ever read, my brain went directly to Confirmation Bias, and I thought I had better not judge a book by its cover, and read it right away!

I was shocked to see how Jack’s 10 strategies, written over 34 years ago, were timeless and relevant for anyone who wants to get their point across to someone else, not just those who are in sales. We all need to be able to persuade others whether it’s coming to a consensus in your personal life, or in the workplace, there is a power behind being able to naturally influence someone, without the use of force, which we all know negates.

As I was reading his book, I wondered how his strategies could be connected to simple neuroscience, just like The Neuroscience of Personal Change, EPISODE #68[iii] where we took Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits book and connected each habit to brain science. I thought about the 10 unique strategies that Jack used to show us how to position ourselves to never receive that dreaded “no, I’m not interested” in whatever it is you are selling, or whatever idea you are trying to convey, and this thought inspired this week’s brain fact Friday on “The Neuroscience of Communication: Why Our Brain Doesn’t Like the Word No!” and with this I mean not just with the word no,  but looking at how the words you choose, and how exactly you say them can influence someone, or not.  I know Chris Gargano mentioned this in episode #166 when he was taking about leadership in the workplace. In a world where time is money, and most of us never have enough time, what we say really matters. In personal relationships, poor listening and speaking skills are major causes of disagreements and in the business world, can ruin an entire corporation.

So for this week’s Brain Fact Friday, we will look at Jack Carew’s book through a neuroscientific lens, and I hope to prove that he was years ahead of his time with this book, that was written 24 years BEFORE the first fMRI scan machine was introduced, changing the world forever as we began to learn the power held within our brain[iv] with the words we say, and with how we say them.

For this week’s Brain Fact Friday:

DID YOU KNOW: that “Words can heal, or hurt—if you were in an fMRI scanner (that can take a video of the neural changes happening in your brain) (and you were told a firm NO! for something) we could record, in less than a second, a substantial increase of activity in your amygdala and the release of dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters…that immediately interrupt the normal functioning of your brain, especially those that are involved with logic, reason, language processing, and communication. And the more you stay focused on negative words and thoughts, the more you can damage key structures that regulate your memory, feelings, and emotions. You may disrupt your sleep, your appetite, and the way your brain regulates happiness, longevity and health.”[v]

If I were leading a sales training, using Jack Carew’s book in 2021, I would open up the session with a section that shows how important it is that we understand how our words impact our brain—for our health, well-being and productivity as well as the importance of keeping communication quick and to the point for the sake of workplace effectiveness.  Twitter really does have it right when it has you limit your characters (spaces included) to 280 characters or less. If you have something to say, see if you can say it, in 10 words or less. This is an interesting activity to try, especially if you are the type that thinks you have to explain your point (like I’ve been guilty of).  Before saying anything, use your fingers and count out 10 words, and then stop. Can you convey your ideas in 10 words or less? It takes practice, but is a good practice to learn, when communicating with the brain in mind.

“Extreme brevity keeps the emotional centers of the brain from sabotaging a conversation. Anger is averted before it begins…Neuroscience supports this premise…the moment a person expresses even the slightest degree of negativity, it increases negativity in both the speaker’s and listener’s brains. Instead of getting rid of the anger, we increase it, and this can, over time, cause irreparable damage, not only to the relationship, but to the brain as well…so any strategy that can teach a person to speak with clarity, brevity, calmness, kindness and sincerity will increase interpersonal stability in the workplace and at home.”[vi]

I’m sure you are well aware that negative words can hurt our effectiveness and health as well as the flipside where positive words and images can “decrease depression and anxiety” (Words Can Change Your Brain, page 391) but I’m not suggesting to avoid difficult situations, or shrink during adversity, as they can build mental strength, and resilience, but they can also stop you in your tracks.

  • Do you know how your brain responds to the word “no”, or anything negative at all?
  • When difficult situations come up, do you lean towards them, looking for a solution, or back away?
  • Or do you just completely zone out?

Try this experiential activity to find out. You’ll  actually have to do this activity to see what you notice, and each person, with a brain that’s wired differently, will have a completely different experience. I remember doing this activity a few years ago, but it was one of those things you’ll never forget. If you do try it, please do let me know the results of what was learned.

Experiential Activity: Testing Your Mental Toughness

You can try this with your class, or sales team, or in your workplace, but split everyone up into groups of 3. One person is the participant and the other 2 are either the negative chatter that surrounds them daily or the positive feedback.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Participant: listens and notices what they hear, while the negative person shouts out negative comments into their ear,(on one side)  and the positive person’s job is to combat the negative feedback with positive feedback (in the other ear). Once everyone understands their role, you say go…and the positive and negative feedback people need to go right next to the participants ear and speak loudly with either negative things like “you’re worthless, a total failure, you’re not good at anything” over and over again, while the other person combats these phrases in the other ear with positives like “you’re a Rockstar, everything you do turns to gold” something like that…and keep going giving enough time for the participant to notice what they hear.  Let this activity run for a good 2-3 minutes and then debrief.

DEBRIEF THE ACTIVITY: ASK THE PARTICIPANT:

  1. What was more noticeable (louder, or easier to hear)—the positive or negative feedback?
  2. Could the participant get to the point where they didn’t hear the negativity at all, showing their ability to block out the noise?
  3. Could they remember the negative phrases?
  4. Could they remember the positive phrases?
  5. What did the participant notice the most?

Psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson, Ph.D. reminds us of the Negativity Bias where “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones”[vii] so it will take practice to build our brain to be wired to hear the positives, and block out the negatives, improving our mental toughness.

Each person is different and will have a different experience with this activity because our brains are all wired differently but the purpose is to see how our brain deals with negativity.

  • Can we see past it, overcome it, or does it shut you down? 

This is a really good experiential activity for self-awareness. It was at least 20 years ago when I did this for the first time, but I’ll never forget my experience. In the beginning, I could hear the negative comments, and wasn’t aware of the positives at all, until I shifted, and thought of what I was working on, and something in my brain blocked out all the negative comments, and although they were shouting in my ear, I could only hear the positive person, shouting encouragement for what I was working on. It’s a good lesson for the mental strength needed to rewire our brain to pay attention to whatever it is we are working on and ignore everything else that doesn’t support this goal. This understanding can take our focus to a new level.

REVIEW and CONCLUSION:

To close out this week’s Brain Fact Friday, on “The Neuroscience of Communication” we are reminded of the importance of speaking with brevity, calmness and kindness, being mindful with the words we choose, and staying focused on our goals, by blocking out all the negative chatter and noise around us.

Before writing this conclusion, I took a quick break on Instagram and saw a post from Assistant Professor at Butler University, Dr. Lori Desautels[viii], from EPISODE #16[ix] and EPISODE #56[x] and she had posted the image of her book How May I Serve You [xi] that was published 10 years ago. The cover caught my attention, as I was thinking of how our words impact our brain and what could I possibly say that would be impactful and memorable for us all to think about at the end of this episode. When I saw the image of  her book cover, I thought, this is it! A picture says a million words.

HowMayIServeYouBookOPT.png

I had no idea that her book cover, and original image, was created by Lena Reifinger at Indiana University and 10 years later, we are still looking and thinking about solutions to better serve our students or those we work for by improving our communication skills and being mindful that words really can change our brain.

Leading me back to Jack Carew’s 10 unique strategies that Og Mandino encouraged us all to read to improve our communication and influence with others. I’ve picked the first five, with some thoughts that tie back to past episodes on the podcast, and I’m sure you will agree with me, just how important these strategies are for us to think about whether we are in the classroom, or workplace. Og Mandino was right. These principles are timeless and relevant, 34 years later.

Strategy 1: Take the Lead 

It’s your job to please those you serve and how you see yourself is critical. You decide how successful you will be. If you think self-defeating thoughts about yourself, your product/what you are selling, or how you are trying to influence others, it will come through. We covered Self-Awareness[xii] in one of our very first episodes, and it’s important enough to have made it to one of Jack’s TOP STRATEGIES.

REMEMBER: With self-image (what you think about yourself and what you are selling) can be felt. When we connect with someone, it’s called neural resonance in the brain, and when something conflicts, it’s called cognitive dissonance. Take the lead with confidence and it will be noticed. Everyone loves a confident leader.

Strategy 2: Stop Looking Out for Number One 

Of course, it’s natural for us to be self-interested, but to experience long term success, we must put others ahead of our own wants and needs.  

You’ve got to know your customer or who you are serving, what’s important to them, and what they want. 

In the business world, we create avatars for our customers and it’s important that everything we do is for them. It should be in the back of our head all of the time. 

REMEMBER: What they (or those we serve) want is more important than anything, so we must align our solutions (or what we offer) to their needs (whatever they might be). Setting our own thoughts aside, we must uncover what it is that  those we serve want and need, and then solve it.

Strategy 3: Invest in the Relationship 

We covered “Building Relationships” with Greg Wolcott on EPISODE #7[xiii] and again on EPISODE #9[xiv]  and it’s important to note that when we have taken the time to invest in relationships with those we serve, we can easily overcome those difficult challenges that will come our way.

REMEMBER: Jack wrote “invest” in the relationship, as that investment is what it will take to overcome times of challenge or difficulty. A solid foundation must be built first and then anything is possible.

Strategy 4: Bring Your Energy to the Customer 

This is my favorite one of Jack’s strategies because when you’ve got this one, anything is possible.

I know you’ve seen it and felt it—that electric energy that shows up when you connect to someone at the brain level.  It’s what will make you memorable and why I think you’ll never get a no when you’ve got this level of connection with another person.

I covered the valuable lesson I learned from the Legendary Bob Proctor on episode #66[xv] where Bob taught me about the importance of generating energy from within and reminded me to never show, or say that I’m tired, even when I was. This lesson stuck with me to this day and it’s impossible to miss when you see it.

REMEMBER: This strategy takes some work on your part. Through diet, exercise, and plenty of sleep, that we talk about on the Bonus Episode “A Deep Dive into the Top 5 Health Staples”[xvi] we will be able to operate at a higher level to make this connection with those we serve. When it’s there, you’ll notice a magic that makes work more enjoyable, less stressful and fun.

Strategy 5: Get Organized 

Organization shows up, whether it’s in your home, how you keep your car, to your desk, and computer. It’s something that can be noticed right away.

I love Q4 or year end, as I have always joined my good friend Jim Bunch on his yearly calls where he walks us through a way to clean up our year and prepare to move into the next year. Listen to episode #103[xvii] for some ideas to close out this year, prepare for a new year, and get organized, with your brain in mind.

REMEMBER: Getting organized sets you ahead of the game and creates order and space for the New Year for whatever it is that you want to create. Getting organized translates to getting ahead, and can transform your workplace, with significant advantages in sales, like knowing and planning where your sales will come from, having a solid pipeline, and setting the tone for the rest of the year, much like the sports team who gets that first point early in the game, there’s a competitive advantage to this sense of organization that builds momentum.

I’ll let you read Jack’s book for the other 5 strategies, but sure you can see how an understanding of our brain can improve our communication and influence, taking our results to greater heights.

This closes out this week’s Brain Fact Friday! Will see you next week with our first Panel Interview with Dr. Howard Rankin, Dr. Jon Lieff, Horacio Sanchez and Tom Beakbane  as well as with Dr. Brian Stenzler on the importance of mental health for our next generation. We also have a fascinating interview coming up with the CEO of Rewire, a human performance company that provides evidence-based solutions for tracking athlete readiness, building mental resilience, and improving mind/body recovery. 

Wishing you a productive weekend, and see you next week.

REFERENCES:

[i] You’ll Never Get No for an Answer by Jack Carew Published in 1987 https://www.amazon.com/Youll-Never-Get-No-Answer/dp/0671736493

[ii] The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino Published  https://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Salesman-World-Og-Mandino-ebook/dp/B004G8PIQ8/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2J4RPTOZXEU0I&dchild=1&keywords=the+greatest+salesman+in+the+world+og+mandino&qid=1635795564&s=books&sprefix=the+greatest+sal%2Cstripbooks%2C137&sr=1-1

[iii]  Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #68 “The Neuroscience of Personal Change with Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/the-neuroscience-of-personal-change/

[iv] A History of fMRI https://www.nmr.mgh.harvard.edu/history-fMRI

[v] Words Can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman, Published July 30, 2013 https://www.amazon.com/s?k=words+can+change+your+brain&gclid=CjwKCAjwoP6LBhBlEiwAvCcthCiCJCWZ-n3nMbmllmxcYj7pY9p3EGBjIT1liFGTzVVBlYWdxCBg6hoC3DMQAvD_BwE&hvadid=241598338504&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9030091&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=e&hvrand=2910883915011355196&hvtargid=kwd-36327312367&hydadcr=15527_10340956&tag=googhydr-20&ref=pd_sl_2ixec66yv3_e

[vi] Words Can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman, Published July 30, 2013 https://www.amazon.com/s?k=words+can+change+your+brain&gclid=CjwKCAjwoP6LBhBlEiwAvCcthCiCJCWZ-n3nMbmllmxcYj7pY9p3EGBjIT1liFGTzVVBlYWdxCBg6hoC3DMQAvD_BwE&hvadid=241598338504&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9030091&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=e&hvrand=2910883915011355196&hvtargid=kwd-36327312367&hydadcr=15527_10340956&tag=googhydr-20&ref=pd_sl_2ixec66yv3_e

[vii] Take in the Good by Dr. Rick Hanson https://www.rickhanson.net/take-in-the-good/

[viii] www.Revelationsineducation.com  

[ix]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #16 with Dr. Lori Desautels and Michael McKnight on “The Future of Educational Neuroscience in Our Schools”  https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/lori-desautels-and-michael-mcknight-on-the-future-of-educational-neuroscience-in-our-schools-and-communities/

[x] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #56 with Dr. Lori Desautels on “Connections Over Compliance” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/educational-neuroscience-pioneer-dr-lori-desautels-on-her-new-book-about-connections-over-compliance-rewiring-our-perceptions-of-discipline/

[xi] How May I Serve You by Dr. Lori Desautels Published Feb. 7, 2012  https://www.amazon.com/How-May-Serve-Revelations-Education/dp/146995818X

[xii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #2 on “Self-Awareness: Know Thyself” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/self-awareness-know-thyself/

[xiii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #7 “Building Relationships in Today’s Classrooms” with Greg Wolcott  https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/greg-wolcott-on-building-relationships-in-todays-classrooms/

[xiv]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #9 “Using Your Brain to Build and Sustain Effective Relationships” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/how-to-build-and-sustain-effective-relationships/

[xv]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #66 “The Legendary Bob Proctor” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/the-legendary-bob-proctor-on/  

[xvi]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast BONUS EPISODE on “ A Deep Dive into the Top 5 Health Staples” and Review of Seasons 1-4  https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/bonus-episode-a-deep-dive-into-the-top-5-health-staples-and-review-of-seasons-1-4/

Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #103 on “The Neuroscience of Leadership: 3 Ways to Reset, Recharge and Refuel Your Brain for Your Best Year Ever.[xvii] https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/the-neuroscience-of-leadership-3-ways-to-reset-recharge-and-refuel-your-brain-for-your-best-year-ever/

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